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 Subodh Varma
4th August, 2014

Bihar Has Dubious Distinction, Maximum Percentage Of Underweight Kids: ICDS

About 2.3 crore children in India, up to 6 years of age, are suffering from malnourishment and are under-weight, according to a status report on the anganwadi (day care center) programme, officially known as ICDS.

This staggering number amounts to over 28% of the 8 crore children who attend anganwadis across India.

The status report includes state-wise data for underweight children. In Bihar, the proportion of under-weight children is nearly 50%. Andhra Pradesh (37%), Uttar Pradesh (36%), Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh (both 32%) are some of the other large states with a high proportion of children being malnourished.

Delhi reported that a shockingly high 35% of the nearly 7 lakh children who attend anganwadis were underweight. This shows that the extent of poverty and malnutrition amongst the urban poor is comparable to rural areas despite all the advantages the cities offer.

In all the northeastern states except Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, less than 10% of children were underweight children. Other large states with a comparatively low rate of malnutrition are Maharashtra (11%) and Tamil Nadu (18%).

There has been no comprehensive survey of children's malnutrition in India since the last National Family and Health Survey in 2005-06. That had estimated 46% of children in the 0-3 years age group as underweight after surveying a sample of about 1 lakh households across the country . The data from anganwadis provides a snapshot drawing upon a much larger base.

There were an estimated 16 crore children of ages up to 6 years in the country, as per the 2011 Census. Of these, about half seem to be attending the anganwadis going by the records of the programme. Most of those attending anganwadis belong to poorer sections. But large sections do not get access to it. A 2011 Planning Commission evaluation had said that there is a shortfall of at least 30% in coverage.

There are over 13 lakh anganwadis which look after the kids and provide `supplementary nutrition' to them.

As part of their duties, personnel at each anganwadi weigh the attending kids every month and keep a record.

TOI contacted anganwadi workers from several states to confirm the weighing procedures. Till recently, two weighing instruments were provided for each anganwadi center. 

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